Supporting students with EAL: Careers ideas and activities

Students with English as an Additional Language (EAL) can face obstacles centred around communication and cultural differences. Find practical tips and activities to help engage them with their future.

Timeline: When to get involved

According to the National Association for Language Development In the Curriculum (NALDIC), there are more than one million EAL students, aged 5-18-years-old, speaking more than 360 native languages in the UK education system.

As a teacher or careers adviser, your guidance is essential in helping EAL students think about their future education and career possibilities. See a timeline of when to intervene below:

Key Stage 3 (KS2)

Early interventions are needed during Years 7, 8 and 9 for students from other countries who may not be familiar with the UK education system. 

How? Teachers and careers advisers should work specifically with small groups prior to GCSE options choices in Year 8 or 9. This helps students understand how the subjects they pick for their options may affect what they are able to study in the future. 

Year 10 

How? Arrange priority one-to-one careers appointments for EAL students who might struggle more with language/cultural barriers prior to work experience.  

Use this as an opportunity to talk to them about working life in the UK.   

Be sure to provide work experience employers with guidance for hosting non-native students during their placement.

Year 11 

How? Discuss post-16 options and the application process with students and parents. Make sure they are aware of support available to EAL students after finishing school.

Students are required to stay in full-time education until they are 18-years old. To study A levels, students are required to obtain a GCSE of 4 and above in English and Maths. If they do not achieve this in the first instance, they will be able to resit their exams.

Support for EAL students includes colleges with ESOL courses (English for Speakers of Other Languages), GCSE English top-ups or specialist colleges that offer formal accreditation in the student’s native language, such as Languages Sheffield. 

How can I help? Six top tips from careers advisers…

1. Keep it visual
Pictures and images make it far easier for students to understand concepts. So try to ensure all careers education sessions are visually engaging.

During the session frequently check students’ understanding of key language.

2. Act it out
Role play or drama activities can also help students to understand job roles or workplace situations.

Giving students with EAL the opportunity to act out workplace scenarios or play games like job role charades can help increase both students’ confidence and understanding of work life in the UK.

3. Challenge perceptions
Many students with EAL may have vastly different perceptions or experiences of the world of work from other students.

Running class group sessions can help all students question their own stereotypes of different job roles and learn more about how work differs in other cultures around the world.

4. Be positive 
Leighton Collins, a careers adviser at Firth Park Academy in Sheffield believes that, although students with EAL may need more support than other students, they should be celebrated for their multilingual skills.

Languages are a key skill that many employers look for in today’s global job market.

5. Ask the experts
Liaise with EAL specialists in school to arrange early careers interventions for students if language is a clear barrier.  

Additional support may also be necessary at key transition points, such as GCSE and A level options, post-16 choices, and work experience.

6. Keep it personal
Try to invite a range of organisations that offer ESOL courses or specialist language support to your school careers events.

This will help EAL students to feel included in the school and confident that there is support available to them once they leave school in Year 11.

Three practical activities to run with EAL students

1. Job cards: Students discuss images of jobs and answer discussion questions around the jobs.  

This can be a great way of tackling cultural and gender stereotypes about work and finding out how much EAL students know about job roles in the UK.

Questions could include:

  • Do you think these jobs are more suitable for men or women?
  • Which do you think would be the easiest or most difficult to do? 

2. Jobs around the world: Students work in groups to make displays where they pick a job, and then research and present information to the rest of the class about what this job is like in four different countries around the world.

3. Cultural awareness: Students work in small mixed EAL/native speaker groups (if possible) and take turns picking a job card (see above, point 1) and discussing the following questions:

  • What do I think they do?
  • What do others in the group think they do? 
  • What does the world think they do (the stereotype)?
  • What do they actually do? (By researching online or reading job profile print-outs.)

Support – what’s out there and how can I access it?

  • Mike Gershon’s EAL Toolkit: Resource for teachers and careers advisers helping EAL students across all key stages in schools.
  • Spartan Test: Picture-based careers assessment tool that allows students to match their personality to future career pathways. 
  • Gameplan: Engaging visual online game from King’s College London, which helps students to get an idea about what university is like.
  • Naldic: Guidance and resources for working with EAL students in schools.